DepEd to find ways to help private schools

BACK TO BASICS Discussing in the Zoom room the next revolution in Philippine education on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, are (clockwise from top left) Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations Managing Director Joseph Noel ‘Erap’ Estrada, Department of Education spokesman Michael Wesley Poa, Private Education Assistance Committee Executive Director Rhodora ‘Doris’ Fernandez-Ferrer, and The Manila Times editors Conrad Cariño and Dafort Villaseran. SCREENSHOT BY AINA EUNICE VIRAY

AS it gears for recovery from the impact of the pandemic, the Department of Education (DepEd) is reviewing the K to 12 curriculum to ensure graduates of the program are competent and employable, Education spokesman Michael Poa said.

The review aims to decongest the learning competencies and focus on the most essential learning areas of Mathematics, Science, English and Literacy.

“The thrust of the department is to improve literacy in terms of basic and functional literacy. We have a problem in K to 12 because it has a huge promise that our learners will be employable upon graduation, but the problem is that they are not being employed — and that's the truth. As we see it, there is a mismatch between the skills they are learning in schools compared to the industry demands,” he said during The Manila Times education forum “After modules and modems: Education Revolution” held on Wednesday.

The other initiatives of DepEd to address learning recovery include psychosocial support activities, reading intervention, and remediation measures across schools.

These initiatives will be done using the strategic framework from the Basic Education Development Plan 2030.

Hiring more teachers for next year is also in the pipeline, as the department continues to fill vacant posts and newly created positions for this school year.

DepEd also wants to reduce the administrative tasks of teachers, if not eliminate them, so they could focus on teaching.

Addressing gaps in the lack of classrooms and facilities were aspects that DepEd need more support through a bigger budget.

The budget hearings for the fiscal year 2023 are ongoing.

The education spokesman said that they are also working with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on the Mandanas ruling to reinstate the DepEd mandate on constructing school buildings based on need, regardless of their municipality classification.

Aside from addressing the gaps in public schools, Poa said that the DepEd is also looking for ways to provide private schools with more support.

More than 400 schools were reported to have closed down due to the pandemic and private school students transferred to public schools for free education.

He added that the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education is being reviewed, as DepEd recognizes the importance of private schools in supporting the public education system.

Moreover, the Private Education Assistance Committee (PEAC) Executive Director Rhodora “Doris” Ferrer called on DepEd to expand government assistance programs to ensure the sustainability of private education institutions.

Her proposal is to offer education service contracting (ESC) to students from Kindergarten up to Grade 6 to decongest the public school population and give learners the opportunity to study in private schools, as the current ESC is only offered to junior high school learners.

Ferrer also urged the government to extend the teachers' salary subsidy (TSS) to schools offering senior high school (SHS) since the SHS voucher program is being implemented and support should also be extended to teachers to prevent them from migrating to public schools offering higher pay.

There was also an earlier proposal to rent the facilities of private schools to address the lack of classrooms in private schools and extend support to schools.

However, Poa said it is still being coordinated as private schools reported that they are also only leasing their properties.

Schools are still under the transition period until October 31 to go from distance and blended learning modalities to implementing five-day in-person classes starting November 2.

In this light, private schools highlighted their capability to sustain blended learning as evidenced by their success amid the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns.

Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea) Managing Director Joseph Noel “Erap” Estrada said that they have received word that DepEd is considering and drafting the policy for blended learning, for the approval of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

“We have formally received communication from the secretary (Sara Duterte-Carpio)'s office that blended modalities and fully online platforms have been considered, and the policy is being drafted by DepEd for the President's approval, and that not later than September 30 the matters we have raised shall have been resolved by the department,” Estrada said.

Cocopea also reaffirmed its support for face-to-face instruction in basic education.

Estrada emphasized that they remain hopeful that partnerships between public and private education institutions may be strengthened to prevent declining enrollment and student migration to public schools.

As students return to schools for in-person learning and to address learning recovery amid the pandemic, DepEd reminded students to follow health and safety protocols such as wearing face masks, frequent hand washing and maintaining physical distancing whenever possible, and encourage getting vaccinated against Covid-19 to prevent a surge in cases in school premises.

Although challenges in the education sector remain, Poa emphasized that DepEd will have no excuse and that it will not break in addressing these concerns for every Filipino learner to have access to quality and equitable education.

“As Filipinos, we are resilient and we will overcome these challenges, we will have no excuses, and we will not break. They say it takes a village to raise a child, so let's be that village,” he added.

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